Chaconland

added 6/25/2008 by Scott Barzilla

Admittedly, I have not watched baseball as long as many people I know, but I have watched the game for more than a quarter century. I thought I had seen it all, but I don't remember an Astros player being suspended during my lifetime. Of course, I don't remember anyone being as obtuse as Shawn Chacon either. Let's retrace our steps to see how we got to this point.

This saga began when Chacon was signed after the beginning of Spring Training. Chacon wanted an opportunity to start, so the 30 teams were so taken by his appearance on the open market that they slept through February. This despite a sub 4.00 ERA as a reliever for the Pirates in 2007. My memory fails me sometimes, but I don't recall the Astros announcing Chacon as one of their starters the day he signed. It memory serves, they extolled his ability to pitch in both roles.

Naturally, when Woody Williams imploded, Chacon became a fixture in the early season rotation. Nine consecutive no-decisions hid the fact that he was pitching very well. So, naturally Chacon has some reason to be angry, but let's take a look at the numbers. There is nothing worse than an athlete that has been blessed without self awareness.

                    GS    INN     SO    BB    HR     H
Roy Oswalt          16    102.3   80    27    17    118
Wandy Rodriguez      9     51.3   42    16     5     47
Brian Moehler        9     58.0   35    17     9     61
Brandon Backe       16     89.7   62    41    20    100
Shawn Chacon        15     85.7   53    41    16     88

We should remember at this point that Brian Moehler took Chris Sampson's spot in the rotation. Sampson was horrible as a starter, but has become one of the more reliable starters on the team. The Astros have made no bones about the fact that they want to win this year. Their margin for error is small given the lack of talent in the rotation. They made an educated guess based on the last few starts for Brandon Backe and Shawn Chacon.

Perhaps Chacon's past experience as a reliever played into that decision. After all, he was a closer in Denver and the Astros only signed him because he looked pretty good as a reliever in Pittsburgh. This is where the self-awareness comes into play. Chacon won't pitch much longer if he insists that he is a legitimate starting pitcher. His best selling point is his versatility.

                Games     INN     SO    BB    HR    Hits
As Starter       134      768.1   498   378   113    752
As Reliever      135      153.2   121    97    24    164

Many of you are asking why ERA and W-L have not been included. These numbers only serve to distort our opinion of the pitcher either way. What we see is a starting pitcher that has 5.83 strikeouts per nine innings (below the league average), 4.43 walks per nine innings (well above the league average), and 1.32 home runs per nine innings (also above the league average). This adds up to a very shaky starting pitcher.

Now, a pitcher that can pitch below average in both the starting and relieving role still can have a job. Brian Moehler can attest to that fact. However, it's not as if Chacon has built himself considerable professional capital. Roy Oswalt can afford to struggle. Even Barry Zito can afford to struggle. The Shawn Chacon's of the world can't.

As the manager in Bull Durham told Crash Davis, "you can keep coming the ballpark and getting paid to do it." Who knows if Chacon would have remained in the pen or if he could have gotten his starting job back. It's not as if Brandon Backe is setting the world on fire and Brian Moehler's track record is similar to Chacon's. Now, he can only hope someone is hungry enough for his presence in their rotation. Good luck Shawn. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.